I love science documentaries. Nature documentaries that show life miles below the ocean floor, shows that talk about how the Earth was millions and even billions of years ago, but my favorite has to be space documentaries. It amazes me that the universe is filled with objects, both large and small, that contain unimaginable amounts of destructive force, yet at the same time, these same forces create everything we know. The sheer size of the universe is something that a person can’t even wrap their mind around. Things happen here that defy the laws of physics as we understand them and change the very fabric of time and space.
As I was going through my Netflix account, I came across History Channel’s “The Universe” and immediately added it to my instant queue. In the second season an episode really caught my attention. It was titled “10 Ways to Destroy the Earth.” In it, several scientists were asked how, if they wanted to and they had the ability, they would destroy the planet. Some of their ideas seemed far fetched and even impossible, but all, no matter how unlikely, is possible. I thought I would go over them here, but I encourage you to watch the episode yourself.
10. Impact: We all know meteors have struck the Earth in the past, some big enough to cause the extinction of 70% of life on the planet, but to destroy the Earth, we would need to be struck by something at least as big as Venus and striking at 30 miles per second. Could you imagine being on the side of the planet that the impact would occur? A planet getting bigger and bigger in the sky until, finally, contact. Both worlds wold shatter and reform into a bigger, lifeless world. Impossible you say? Well, the odds of something that big hitting us are about 1% in 4 billion years, but not zero.
9. Big Chill: Moving the Earth away from the Sun at 3 million miles a year would cause a slow, painful death. At first, nothing that we couldn’t handle, just a little colder. As the Earth gets about 200 million miles away from the sun, the plant life dies from lack of light. This would cause the entire food chain to break down. Get out to the distance of, say Neptune, and our atmosphere freezes. A warm day would be 350 degrees below zero. However, life may survive deep in the ocean at the volcanic vents.
8. Big Burn: In the opposite direction, we have the Sun. 3 million miles closer and the ocean level rises 200 feet, global warming takes on a new meaning. Get towards Venus’ orbit and the oceans boil away as steam and all life is dead with temperatures at 900 degrees Fahrenheit. As we get really close to the Sun the Earth vaporizes and, for a brief time, looks like a comet as the vapor is blown away by the solar wind. Eventually, only the molten core of the planet will remain, which the Sun gobbles up without even flinching. How could we be thrown out of our orbit in such a manner though? There are, in space “Rogue Suns” that speed through the universe at millions of miles an hour. One of those coming through our solar system would disrupt all the orbits of the planets and could throw us out of our comfort zone.
7. Stop the Spin: The Earth rotates at about 1000 miles per hour. If it is stopped suddenly, the atmosphere and everything on the planet will not stop along with it. Instantly there would be 1000 mph winds everywhere on the planet, causing enough heat to melt buildings. People and animals would be thrown against stationary objects at high velocity. Afterwords, our day and night cycle would be dictated by the orbit around the Sun. Six months of daylight and then six months of night. The day/night border would be filled with super hurricanes and cyclones. About the only way for this to happen is an impact from another body, in which case the spin would be the least of our problems.
6. Torn Apart: A stellar black hole has about 10 times the mass of our Sun and everything that crosses into its path is gone forever. Put this next to the Earth and the planet becomes a thin piece of spaghetti before finally falling into the event horizon, never to be seen again.
5. From Within: Even better, what if, somehow, a black hole the size of a quarter were placed in the center of the Earth. That black hole would have the same mass as the Earth and slowly eat the planet from the inside out. As soon as the black hole appeared gravity would instantly double and the planet would be hollowed out, eventually collapsing into nothingness. It is theorized that miniature black holes do exist and roam the universe, although one has yet to be discovered.
There are a few others but this post is getting a little long so I will stop here. Granted, some, or even most of these scenarios are a little far fetched, but each one is, technically, possible. What is your favorite way to destroy the Earth? Personally, my favorite is the impact, not that I would want to be on the Earth when it happened mind you.